The Eid gift

The Eid gift

Will it be one lakh crore - a payment long overdue and hopefully not subject to last-minute haggling

There was it, that bounce in his step. As he tip-toed across the  packed banquet hall of Ashoka Hotel in New Delhi that evening, at  his Chief Mufti Sayeed’s Iftaar party, a smile of satisfaction was clearly visible as he hopped from one table to the other, with his boss, sitting at the high table with the  the vice-president Hamid Ansari, Dr. Karan Singh and some other political heavyweights,  among the guests. 

Haseeb Drabu, the Kashmir finance minister had obviously had  a good couple of days at the north and south block offices of government of India and succeeding, too, in getting New Delhi to shake off its lethargy and into putting out front the financial package it  had  promised the state long months ago. That’s what really accounted for the bounce in Drabu’s step.

The prime minister will duly announce a package running into  Rs.  80,000 crores to one lakh crore, a payment long overdue and hopefully not subject to last-minute haggling, a patented Modi government ploy in Kashmir.

The announcement of this rehabilitation and development plan, when it materializes, hopefully during prime minister Modi’s visit to the state  around Eid would prod the coalition out of its virtual slumber. Hopefully, I am using advisedly, knowing that there’s always the proverbial possibility of  slip between the cup and  the lip, which, unfortunately, has been the hallmark of the  Modi sarkar’s dealings  far with Srinagar. My fears are the greater when I am told Modi may fly first to Jammu, the winter capital of the state, and a BJP stronghold, currently in  the source of its rise to power, shared with Mufti Sayeed’s people’s democratic party, in the state .

Modi is due to participate in a function marking the 100th birth anniversary of Girdharilal Dogra, a leading  state politician of an era dominated  by men like Sheikh Abdullah. Dogra, a respected Jammu politician, was a cabinet minister in the state and later served in the Lok Sabha; his present claim to fame appears to arise from his daughter having married Modi’s finance minister, Arun Jaitley, who will accompany the Prime Minister on his Kashmir visit. Modi, it is said, may announce his financial package as an Eid gift to the state at   a function  organized by his  party. Probably in the hope of boosting  its future prospects in the valley.

 Can’t forget Ram Madhav’s assertion in the valley late last month that his party workers had enrolled three lakh members in  as many days during his visit to the state, a reflection perhaps of the Sangh Parivar’s obsession with numbers. Remember the BJP president, Amit Shah’s claim that his party has 11 crore registered primary members “making the BJP the world’s largest political party”?  political correctness apart, propriety demands that if any announcement about the package is to be made it should be done by the chief minister, who also is the leading partner in the state coalition.

Modi  perhaps has his own value   set of priorities which, given the of sycophancy that surrounds him, may persuade him to give the credit for the grant of the package  to himself and his party. As it is, it is on the cards that Modi might announce the setting  up of centrally  backed institutions like  AAIMS and IITS etc in Jammu. The Jammu BJP MP and a minister in Modi’s PMO, Jitinder Singh has already indicated that the  aims would go to Jammu, much to the regret of the valley which  in the absence of a high speciality  facility,   must  continue to rely on flying out is sick to far away  Delhi.

That, though, cannot be reason enough for chief minister Mufti and Haseeb Drabu to sit back in despair. Their first few months in the office had demonstrated their will to overcome the odds their government  had to face in the aftermath of the unprecedented floods of ten months ago and the other stark reality : an empty treasury. The long delayed rehabilitation and development plans   should now receive a significant boost after the   central package is unleashed in the next few day. In the given circumstances  I wouldn’t waste my time in sizing up the potential/dimensions of the gift horse, I would instead  put it to  use to render long-delayed help to the people. It would be a major shot in the arm for the government and the state as a whole 

The highest priority needs to be accorded to the flood victims of 2014 who have yet to receive any form of compensation ten months after the devastation. The Mufti government  needs to bestir itself; it has to regain the confidence of the people not only in its ability to provide good governance but in translating into  reality the dreams it has held out. It needs to demonstrate its ability to become an instrument of change. The central package may have been unusually late in coming but now that it promises to be there Mufti and his finance minister will have to give shape to the promises made by the state government in its first budget. The vision outlined in that document was instantly promising and appealing; it had raised visions of good times for the state. No reason why that vision should not prevail.